Prisoners are persons whom most of us would rather not think about. Banished from everyday sight, they exist in a shadow world that only dimly enters our awareness. They are members of a "total institution" that controls their daily existence in a way that few of us can imagine. "[P]rison is a complex of physical arrangements and of measures, all wholly governmental, all wholly performed by agents of government, which determine the total existence of certain human beings (except perhaps in the realm of the spirit, and inevitably there as well) from sundown to sundown, sleeping, walking, speaking, silent, working, playing, viewing, eating, voiding, reading, alone, with others. . . ." It is thus easy to think of prisoners as members of a separate netherworld, driven by its own demands, ordered by its own customs, ruled by those whose claim to power rests on raw necessity. -- Justice William Brennan, dissenting in O’Lone v. Estate of Shabazz, 482 U.S. 342, 354-55 (1987).

Monday, July 2, 2007

Release Day

[This was written on my release day.]

The good news is that I did get to sleep by 11p last night.

The bad news is I awoke at 2:40a to go to the bathroom and haven't been asleep since.

At this moment, I am waiting, and writing, in the prison law library, which is appropriate since I have spent so much time here.

I finally got out of bed at 5:30a after listening to Pensacola Q100 (100.7 FM) for the previous two hours while staring at the bottom of the bunk above me. At 4:30a two COs entered with flashlights performing the regular count at that time (which I normally sleep through).

I was showered and dressed in 20 minutes and left the remaining items (soap dish, brush, shampoo, sweat shorts, t-shirt) in my locker for certain designated "scavengers" to retrieve later.

I stripped my bed and stepped outside to a clear Florida morning and perfect sunrise. I carried my bed linens to the laundry, returning to the phone room at 6a to call my parent just to make sure they did not oversleep :)

Skipped breakfast. Not hungry.

I walked over to the bus staging area just before 6:30a to say a few final goodbyes. It was a little awkward because there were maybe a couple hundred guys milling around waiting for the work buses to arrive and only a handful I wanted to talk to. I didn't want to be too obvious because I wanted to be sensitive to the fact that, while I was happy to be leaving, many of these guys have many more years remaining on their sentence. I quickly found the friends I was looking for, wished them well, and within a few minutes, I simply walked quietly away.

And now here I sit with an hour to kill -- alone with my own thoughts. The only sound is that of the air conditioner.

The plan is to go to breakfast with my parents after they pick me up at 8a, then on to the airport by 10a. My flight leaves at 11:25a CST (please be on time USAir!) arriving at 2p EST.

Then, after my wife picks me up, I have a 4p haircut, 5:15p massage (with my wife) at Urbana, dinner at Bonefish Grill at 7p and then home. What happens after I get home is none of your business. :)


I have just boarded the plane -- right on schedule fortunately.

I arrived at Release & Discharge at 7:30a. The officer escorted me to the processing area, where I changed into my departure clothing (that my wife sent in) in one of the 7' x 13' holding rooms. This is the same room where I was stripped searched and put on an orange jumpsuit when I arrived 3 months ago.

I applied my right thumb print to the release document -- I assume to confirm, if a question were to arise later, that they released the right person!

I was given the package of documents I had provided them yesterday; it appeared to be intact, unsearched. The only new items I brought with me this morning were reading glasses (that I brought to prision with me), a comb (that I bought at commissary), and a pad of paper and a blue pen (which is what I am writing my notes on).

I was escorted down the hall to the cashiers office where I was given the $158.30 balance in my commissary account in cash. This included the balance of my phone account as well as the $15 or so I earned working this month.

I then waited in the R&D "lobby" until 8a. My parents had actually arrived at the front gate at 7:30a but were denied entrance until 8a. Finally, a few minutes after 8, their car arrived, I stepped into the back seat and we were off. At this point, I actually wanted to snap a few pictures of some of the prison buildings to post on this blog so people could get a better sense of what the place was like but I couldn't get my dad to drive where I wanted to go. Oh, well.

They handed me a small backpack my wife had delivered the previous weekend containing my cell phone. Wow. A cell phone. Now, how does this think work again. Hmmm..... let's see.... hold down the Off button for a few seconds to turn On. Ahhh.... it is rebooting.

Though I had recorded an extended absence greeting, I still had some messages to listen to, including two from my wife this morning.

Breakfast at Village Inn. Western Omelette, grits, pancakes. I think I'm going to cry. Actually not, but I do feel a little weird. "Apparating" (Harry Potter fans know the word) out of The Rabbit Hole can do that to you.

After breakfast, we had an hour to kill so we drove to an old section of Pensacola near Seville Square where my dad grew up on Alcaniz Street. The house he grew up in over 60 years ago, including the wire rim basketball goal he attached to a tree trunk, is still there.

We stopped by the nursery -- plants, not children -- to say hi to my Aunt Glenda (everyone needs an Aunt Glenda) who works there part time.

Finally to the airport where, miraculously, the US Air ticket kiosk worked correctly the first time and there was no security line. The plane even boarded and departed on time. Have aiports/airlines really improved this much in 3 months or is this just my lucky day?

I'm a little numb. Don't really feel particularly chatty which, my friends will tell you, is not normal. Prison hangover I guess.

I'm starting to ramble. I figure if I keep writing, I won't start ogling the women sitting around me. So this is what real women look like. I almost forgot.

Hmm... she did it again. Either airplane aisles are getting narrower or the flight attendants are getting fatter because that's the 3rd time in 10 minutes my right arm (I have an aisle seat... my preference) has been brushed by her hips as she walks by. I'm losing my train of thought.

Before the I boarded the plane, I called my lawyer to discuss a couple matters. I told him that if he tells me it seems (to him) that I just entered prision, I was going to slap him when I get back. I feel like I was gone forever.

I will write about my arrival home and the weekend with my family tomorrow as well as begin posting some of the other, less time-relevant, articles I wrote while in prison. My wife was not able to finish some of the articles I wrote in May and I have some others I wrote in June that I brought back with me.

Also, I meet with my Probation Office tomorrow and will probably begin the 3 month electronic monitoring/home confinement portion of my sentence next Monday, which I also intend to blog about.


Anonymous said...

How dumb is the BOP, so for now you are in no man's land? The house arrest starts after a week, so in that 1 week you are free to roam around? What's the purpose of this house arrest other then to justify a sentence, this was a white collar issue not even a crime, and they hype this thing and make you pay with 3 months of time. BOP-Govt is really screwed up....

Bill Bailey said...

When I was released, I essentially was transferred from BOP custody to the Probation Department; home confinement is not considered part of my prison sentence, it is a "special condition" of my 3 years supervised release.

I understand your point but apparently as a practical matter, it takes a week or two to setup the electronic monitoring. At that point, the 3 month home confinement clock begins... I am not getting credit for that time right now.

Between the time I was released and the time home confinement begins, I guess I am just under the normal conditions of probation. I have not been given any special instructions for this "intermediate" stage.

Anonymous said...

Do you have to pay a monthly fee when you are on house arrest, similar to the 25% of income that is taken when one is placed in a CCC (halfway house)?

Bill Bailey said...

I have to pay for the monitoring service... a little over $3/day. I believe it comes out to $95.40/mo. I will be giving my PO a cashier's check for the full 3 months in advance this week. The check is actually made out directly to BI (, the company that provides the equipment and monitoring.

Halfway house or CCC is still considered under the control of BOP, not probation. You are right, it is 25% of the inmates gross income, even if the inmate is not staying ther. Oftentimes, an inmate will only spend 2-3 weeks in the halfway house, even if he has been assigned to several months. He is still responsible for the "rent." I do believe there is a cap however. I believe it maxes out at $400 per month so someone like Martha Stewart (if she had spent time in halfway house, which she didn't) wouldn't have to pay $100K/month :)

Anonymous said...

When you are tagged as a "felon", does it make it more difficult to pass through airport security?

Do Felons have to carry copies of their legal documents each time they go to the airport to board a plane?

What are the implications when a Felon tries to travel out of the country?

Bill Bailey said...


Being a felon, in and of itself, has no effect on your ability to travel domestically. Remember when you go through security, all you do is show them a photo id and your ticket. There is nothing to identify you as a felon. You do not have to carry any documents.

International travel is a different story. I have been told that felons cannot travel to Canada, England, or Australia (there may be others). When you arrive by plane in those countries and go through passport control, your passport will pull up your felon status and you will be denied entry. Perhaps also by car or train or bus... however you end up going through passport control. I have been told that these countries are tied into the same computer system as the US but I have no authoritative reference for that.

See this link with respect to Canada.

Also, while on probation, you cannot even travel out of your district without approval. They are holding my passport until probation is complete, so obviously I can't travel internationally until they give it back.

Anonymous said...

Dear Bill,
I've been following your blog since the beginning and am enjoying it immensely. I knew that felons can't vote - which casts an interesting light on "democracy" in a country where so many citizens are felons. I didn't know about the travel restrictions. The restriction on travel to the UK makes no sense, because, as you probably know, foreign visitors can move about freely within the EU without showing their passports every step of the way. Just more Kafkaesque red tape...
I wish you well and am looking forward to the next stage of your blog.

Bill Bailey said...

On the travel to England, I have been told, as you suggest, that the solution is just to fly to France and then take the chunnel to England. Go figure.

In practice, the right way to handle this is to approach the consulate of the country you want to travel to and petition for a waiver. It is my understanding that if your conviction was non-violent that you can probably obtain permission.

As for voting and other civil rights (serve on a jury, restore professional licenses, etc), these are regulated at the state, not federal, level and in most states these rights are restored once you have completed your sentence, including supervised release.

In the case of voting, I simply have to reregister to vote when probation is over.

Interesting, there were only 3 states that permanently disenfranchised felons: Kentucky, Virginia, and Forida. One week after I entered prison, the Florida Clemency Board (led by the new Republican(!) Charlie Crist), restored felons rights consistent with other states. As you can imagine, since I was in a federal prison in Florida (and, thus, a disproportionate number of inmates were also from Florida), this story was followed very closely by the inmates, although it was mostly ignored by the general public I believe. (As an aside, Al Gore probably would have been elected president had this been in effect for the 2000 election since the old policy disproportionately impacted blacks and blacks vote 90% Democratic and Gore only needed 537 votes)

USA Today story

NPR audio interview with member of clemency board explaining decision

Also, see this very intesting story on why Conrad Black, multi-millionaire (if not billionaire) convicted yesterday in Chicago of fraud and obstruction of justice, cannot become a citizen of Canada again. He had previously renounced his Canadian citizenship to accept a peerage in the British House of Lords. It talks about him not being able to travel to Canada in order to establish necessary residency, a prerequisite to applying for citizenship.

Finally, one other interesting sidelight to my case was that I pleaded guilty on October 13, 2006 but was not sentenced until Feb 13, 2007. There was a national election in November, 2006, after I pleaded guilty but before I was sentenced.

Question: Did I have a right to vote in that election? For voting purposes, was I a convicted felon in November?

Answer: Yes, I did have a right to vote because a conviction is not final when the plea is entered; it becomes final at sentencing when the judgment and commitment document is signed. The prosecutor confirmed that they do not notify state boards of elections until after sentencing.

This is also why Kenneth Lay is not a convicted felon.... he died before sentencing despite a jury conviction... his entire prosecution was voided as if it never occurred.

Anonymous said...

I can only wonder what jeffrey skiling and bernie ebbers are going through as white collar commits....I assume they probably think they can walk away when the sea is calm via appeals etc..

Bill Bailey said...

Skilling and Ebbers will be behind a fence for quite a while, possibly even the whole time, given their high profile. They are currently in a low security facility, due to be released in 2028 (click on names above for BOP details). Remember you have to be within 10 years of your release date to qualify for a camp.